Maybe you’ve heard of Cloudflare in your SEO wanderings. But even among those familiar with the name, many don’t know know how it really works.
Some think that the platform is nothing more than another DNS management system.
However, I can confidently say that the platform offers exceptional features for:
- SEO security.
- DDoS protection.
- Speed optimization.
If you haven’t had the time to learn how Cloudflare can improve your SEO, this guide covers multiple feature implementations that can supercharge your search engine optimization in the next few pages.
(Disclosure: I’m a Cloudflare certified partner. This article is based on my 20+ years of experience in enterprise SEO and familiarity with the platform; I’ve received no compensation for writing this.)
Wait. What Is Cloudflare If It’s Not A DNS Management System?
Cloudflare started as a DNS management tool but has since expanded into a tool for:
- DNS management.
- Website optimization (more on that below).
- Bot Management.
- So much more.
If you dig into the company, they call themselves a “web performance and security company.”
And through a global network, they’ve been able to offer fast, private, and secure features that can help you keep your site fast and secure.
Plus, the company has been rapidly adding features that show the power of running Cloudflare in the background of your website.
For example, one of the major announcements at the end of October 2021 was that IndexNow had become a thing. Microsoft and Yandex have both pushed IndexNow, an open-source protocol that allows you to tell search engines to instantly index your pages.
Cloudflare partnered with Microsoft, and the two announced that 60,000 websites have opted into the Crawler Hints feature.
Essentially, the feature, which is part of Cloudflare’s platform, tells Bing that you have new website assets that need to be crawled.
The protocol works so well that Google has said they’re going to test it to see whether it’s something they may integrate into their search engine.
As anyone in the SEO field will tell you, instant indexing is a complete game-changer for site owners.
With that context under your belt, let’s take a look at how Cloudflare can improve your SEO and how to use some of its features.
Cloudflare Features That Can Improve Your SEO
- Bot Management.
- Code Minify.
- Image Optimization.
Do you know any SEOs who are security experts? Of course, you take on many roles when working on a site’s optimization, but there are a lot of security aspects that are simply out of your wheelhouse.
Cloudflare can help you bridge the security gap to improve user experience and site security with the following features:
Data security is at the forefront of consumers’ minds. In 2019, over 15 billion records leaked due to eCommerce data theft.
Cloudflare offers SSL free of charge to encrypt a user’s web data and even boosts SEO through:
- Faster page load times.
- Google’s favor towards HTTPS sites.
A site needs to use SSL/TLS to be PCI compliant and trusted by users.
Cloudflare offers numerous configuration options, including custom certificates, modern TLS only, HSTS, automatic HTTPS rewrites, and much more.
Firewalls help you control web traffic and who can access your site.
Through HTML filtering and fine-grained controls, developers can use Cloudflare to manage rules, control bots, show captcha codes, create custom expressions for advanced rule setups, and much more.
Using firewalls makes it possible to keep your site safe and secure with precision rules.
Bots slow up a website and leave spam wherever they go.
Additionally, bots can steal information and damage your brand. Through real-time monitoring, it’s possible to keep bots from infesting your site through Cloudflare’s:
- Behavioral analysis.
- Machine learning.
- Bot scoring.
Cloudflare can stop bots from DDoS-ing your site, scraping your content, and spamming content, too.
If you’re running a major content marketing strategy, preventing bots from scraping your site can lead to better SEO rankings since bots won’t be reposting the content everywhere.
If you’re working on an enterprise site, there’s a good chance that they use APIs and applications. A WAF is a web application firewall that integrates into these growth tools to offer:
- OWASP rule adherence.
- Managed rules.
- Monitoring of stolen and exposed data.
- Custom response options.
- Much more.
While a WAF may not offer direct SEO benefits, it will keep applications and APIs safe and secure.
Do you hate captcha codes? Everyone does.
Cloudflare helps you reduce the time it takes to solve captchas down to five seconds with the introduction of Cryptographic Attestation of Personhood.
Instead of captcha codes, you can add a new layer of security to your website while also eliminating the concern of bots on your site.
Speed and performance are integral to technical search engine optimization. This demands a speedy site, and Cloudflare helps you meet these performance needs through the following:
If you’re not already using a content delivery network (CDN), you need to start. Cloudflare has an extensive global edge delivery network that allows you to:
- Reduce bandwidth costs.
- Protect against DDoS attacks.
- Reduce site load times.
Content is cached at a close data center, so when two visitors from the same region visit your site, the second user will enjoy rapid speeds thanks to the files being on the closest edge server.
CDNs boost speeds for static files, but there’s more that you can do. For example, caching can help reduce load times further by controlling how long files remain on edge servers.
Furthermore, you can control which files are cached, for how long, and more.
Ultimately, caching will lead to even faster site load speeds.
Inside Cloudflare’s settings page, you should enable the auto-minify setting on your speed tab, which will further improve site speeds. When this setting is enabled, it will remove unnecessary characters in the following files:
When unnecessary characters are removed, the end-user will download the file faster.
Minify is just one of the ways to improve a site’s speed.
You should also consider your image sizing, especially with today’s high-resolution images that take longer to download.
Utilizing Cloudflare’s servers, you can take control of image optimization through a system that offers image:
You can even use the polish feature to begin optimizing all of the images already on your site. Reducing image size is just another way to improve load speeds and boost site rankings.
Redirects are a major consideration, especially on an enterprise site where you’re managing hundreds or thousands of pages.
You can find resources about redirect mistakes, but many of these mistakes can be eliminated with Cloudflare.
If you open up your dashboard, you’ll find that you can select Rules and then narrow these rules down to pages.
Through the dashboard, you can setup redirects easily by adjusting:
- Status code.
- Destination URL.
You must allow your traffic to pass through Cloudflare for these settings to work for you.
Redirects will play an important role in your site’s success if you delete pages or are trying to trim down your pages without losing a lot of the optimization that you already have in place.
Manually adding redirects into a .htaccess file or something similar is always an option, but using a dashboard through Cloudflare helps:
- Speed up redirect creation.
- Reduce the risk of errors when creating redirects.
- Reduce server functions and bandwidth by redirecting at the DNS level.
If you’re struggling to manage your site’s redirects, the platform can help ease the burden.
Frontend developers will want to dig deeper into Cloudflare Pages because they make it simple to deploy and collaborate on websites.
In addition, building sites that are fast is just a little easier thanks to the following:
- No hosting solutions that help you connect to GitHub, so you can rapidly build and deploy a site.
- Create previews and invite an unlimited number of collaborators for free.
- Analytics are built into the pages, so you don’t even need to worry about adding additional coding.
If you’re using a CMS such as WordPress, you may be wondering why you would ever need to use Cloudflare Pages.
These static pages allow you to make lightning-fast landing pages that you can use when running ads or optimizing product pages.
As an SEO expert, you know that even a second can make a difference in conversion rates, bounce rates, and more.
Creating rapid static pages will empower your team and open the possibility of testing out new pages and designs faster than ever before.
Additionally, since these pages are static, there is no strain on your server or database.
If you have to create signup forms or write code, Cloudflare workers can make the process effortless. Serverless code can be deployed to users worldwide, and it’s a way to change how your team builds apps.
Plus, the platform offers automatic scaling and uses a global network to remain fast and efficient.
You also don’t need to maintain servers, pay as you go and also join other big sites that use Cloudflare Workers, including:
You can also leverage workers in several SEO-friendly ways, including:
- Creating exit pop-ups to convert potentially lost sales or keep site users on your site just a little longer.
- Add custom headers to your site instead of using coding. For example, you can add an x-robots-tag to the header to keep pages smaller and load times faster.
- Alter headings to change caching rules for different file types.
If you have a multitude of redirects that you need to make, there are even examples that will show you how to create mass redirects.
Coding can be extremely powerful and leveraged to help you optimize your site more effectively.
Want To Dictate TLS Versions?
You can do that with Workers, too. It’s easy to check TLS versions and throw error codes to the end-user that tells them to use a higher version of TLS.
Workers is a very powerful tool that can be used to augment current applications without the need for infrastructure or advanced configuration. However, there is a learning curve that requires some understanding of coding to use Workers.
Start reading through the tutorials and examples to determine how to leverage workers properly.
How To Enable Crawler Hints
Remember at the beginning of the article when I mentioned Crawler Hints and the IndexNow protocol? If you want to enable this feature on your own site or a client’s site, you’ll want to:
- Log into your Cloudflare platform.
- Navigate to your Cache tab.
- Go to the configuration section.
- Click the switch to turn on Crawler Hints.
In just seconds, you can turn on IndexNow across any website using Cloudflare.
Leveraging the platform’s power makes it fast and easy to stay on top of the recommendations that search engines have to optimize your site.
How Cloudflare Integrates Into Your SEO Plan
We’ve learned about numerous features that Cloudflare offers (and there are more), but how they align with your SEO strategy may not be apparent at first.
Running Cloudflare won’t help you with all of Google’s signals, and it’s not going to help you acquire links or change on-page factors.
But it will eliminate much of the optimization for:
- User experience.
- Core Web Vitals.
- Site speed.
Speed remains one of the most important factors for ranking an enterprise website in 2022.
You’re in complete control of your enterprise site’s speed, and Cloudflare puts even more control in your hands without needing to invest in infrastructure.
Cloudflare is smart, and the advanced features that make a world of difference include:
- Smart routing, so traffic is routed to servers that aren’t congested and are running optimally.
- Continual, automated monitoring keeps servers running smoothly and automatically adjusts routing based on node outages or issues.
- An intelligent caching system that focuses heavily on latency and travel distance to allow for faster site load speeds.
- Image optimization and CDN work together to improve user experience, reduce site speed and make search engines happier in the process.
- Reliability is further improved so that your site remains online. When crawlers land on your site, you can be confident that your site will be available and run smoothly.
In terms of technical SEO, Cloudflare truly helps eliminate some of the most common pain points of optimization experts.
Cloudflare is a tool that, if used properly, can help you keep on top of new search engine trends while improving your site’s security, speed, and even user experience.
Featured Image: Boo-Tique/Shutterstock